“It was literally like the hand of God going, ‘Okay, this is why you can’t play sports anymore,’” says Kenny Chesney when he redirected his drive and ambition from sports to music as a college freshman. Backstory: Kenny Chesney, premiering Thursday, July 12, 10:00 p.m./ET on Great American Country (GAC) tells Chesney’s remarkable story — through those closest to him including NFL coaches Sean Payton and Jon Gruden and tour mate Jake Owen — of a football fanatic and the detour that led him to become one of the most successful artists in contemporary music. Many never before seen photographs from the singer’s personal collection are included in this one-hour biodoc.
Although Chesney scored his first Top 10 hit in 1995, what followed was valuable time spent on the road and in the studio learning his craft. “I had a greatest hits album with 17 songs on it and nobody knew who I was,” he recalls. “But they knew the songs.” After some soul searching Chesney admitted to himself that he was not going to be one of his heroes. “There were a lot of guys trying to be George Strait at that time and I was one of them,” he says. “I can’t be somebody else and still be successful. I had to get better as an artist, a songwriter and a musician because if I didn’t, I was going to have my little run and that was going to be it. There was something inside of me that was not going to let me settle and it’s still there.”
The lifelong sports fan began treating everything he did like an athlete, even taking a trainer on the road with him for two years. It was a metamorphosis that affected every aspect of his career. “My song sense changed, the way Buddy (Cannon) and I recorded our records changed, the way we mixed them changed.” The island influence in his lifestyle translated into his writing and performing and it suited him well. The amazing transformation grew with the release of the quadruple platinum LP, No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem in 2002. By 2004 Chesney was selling out stadiums and remains one of the few artists in any genre to still be doing so today.
“This is definitely a more intimate look at how Kenny Chesney rose from a being a member of the pack to one of music’s top superstars,” says GAC GM/SVP Sarah Trahern. “We appreciate his willingness to share his stories and his personal photographs with our viewers.”
It’s been 17 years, but the eight-time Entertainer of the Year winner shows no signs of slowing down. He recently released Welcome to the Fishbowl and continues to sell out stadiums on his Brothers of the Sun tour with Tim McGraw. “I’m not going to sit here and say I want to win two more Entertainer of the Year awards or sell another 30 million records, but I do. But I’m not going to tell you that’s incredibly important to me. I want to get better at what I do; I just want to write the best songs I can and put on the best show out there and that other stuff will take care of itself.”
Be sure to tune-in to Great American Country (GAC) on Thursday, July 12 at 10:00 p.m./ET for the Backstory: Kenny Chesney special.